Electricity is something we often take for granted. Because it’s so intertwined into our daily lives, from powering your smartphone to providing lighting in even the most obscure locations, we can often forget the dangers that come with it. When not properly installed or respected, there are significant risks of injury or fire from electrical hazards.
May has been designated as National Electrical Safety Month. The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) uses the month to raise awareness about electrical safety hazards both on the job site and at home. This year, their focus is on Connected to Safety, highlighting the emerging technology that makes a home and workplace safe and efficient.
Electrical Safety in the Workplace
Live electrical contact is a leading cause of workplace injuries and fatalities, with nearly 4,000 injuries and 300 deaths each year. It’s essential to discuss electrical safety as part of your daily safety protocols.
According to the CDC’s NIOSH, the construction industry comprises approximately 8% of the U.S. workforce, yet it accounts for 44% of job-related fatalities. On top of that, 32% of workplace injuries and claims are related to material handling, according to Insurance Journal. Here are a few electrical tips to keep in mind while working:
- Never overload electrical circuits. Extension cords plugged into power strips that are connected in series with other strips is a common, but significant risk. Not only is this practice is a regulatory violation, but it can also cause a fire.
- All electrical panels and equipment should have penetrations properly sealed, making sure there are no exposed wires or access points into live electrical exposures. To avoid injury, equipment should not be opened by employees unless they have received the proper training.
- Proper training to understand the energy sources of equipment is required when providing service or maintenance or when troubleshooting equipment. Lockout/tagout processes should be followed by anyone involved in or affected by these tasks.
- Inspect any tears or frayed connections leading into corded tools or electrical equipment. These can lead to exposure points and result in live electrical contact. Also, always ensure that equipment is unplugged before attempting to change tooling or perform repairs.
Smart Home and Electrical Safety
Each year, 35,000 home fires are the result of an electrical malfunction. Because the average home was built in 1977, today’s modern house cannot handle the electrical demands. It’s important to be aware of the warning signs of an overloaded electrical system. Here’s what to look for:
- Frequent tripping of circuit breakers or blowing of fuses
- Dimming of lights when other devices are turned on
- Buzzing sound from switches or outlets
- Discolored outlets
- Appliances that seem under-powered
With thousands of electrical malfunctions every year, how can you avoid overloading circuits in your home? An easy first step to have an understanding of what’s actually on the circuits in your home. You should make sure that your home’s electrical installations and labeling are performed by a qualified electrical resource. Another responsible change would be to reduce your electrical usage through energy-efficient appliances and lighting.
The Reality of Electrocution
Electrocution is the sixth most common cause of workplace deaths in America. Construction trades and maintenance or repair professionals are the top two groups suffering from fatal electrocution work-related accidents.
According to a study by the CDC, the construction industry represents 52% of all occupational electrocutions. When working with heavy equipment, the possibility of an electrical accident is more likely. Here is more insight into the correlation between heavy equipment and electrocution:
- Over 90% of power line contact accidents involved overhead distribution conductors
- Heavy equipment incidents accounted for 50% of those overhead power contacts – cranes comprising of 56.5%, drilling rigs 7.7%, dump trucks 6.7%, bucket trucks 6.7%, and backhoes 4.9%
- Carried items comprising of 20.5% of overhead line contacts – ladders comprising of 12.9%, scaffolding 2.2%, and direct human contact 10.2%
Always Keep Electrical Hazards Top of Mind
Whether you’re on a job site, sitting at an office desk, or in your own home, electrical exposure could be present. Make sure you understand how to approach a situation and prevent injury or death from electrical contact. Although May is designated as Electrical Safety Month, you should observe proper electrical safety behaviors every single day.
At WESCO and Anixter, we understand that safety is fundamental to everything you do, and our solutions can help you reduce injury risks and improve employee safety.